TASTE OF THE TOUR: Nutty pastry fingers in Mende

VALENCE, France — After a brief respite, the Tour de France heads for the heights again on Saturday when almond and hazelnut pastry fingers point the way for surviving riders through terrain featuring ancient artworks and fanciful architecture.

They'll see some beautiful landscapes, too, as they are tested on the foothills of the Massif Central.

The route passes by part of the Ardeche gorges, where cave paintings going back some 36,000 years can be found. But the riders won't have time to stop and admire them - they'll have to keep pedaling increasingly difficult ascents through the limestone plateaus of the Causses, then the Cevennes mountains, before a final steep ascent of Cote de la Croix Neuve.

Local specialties in the area include chestnuts, potatoes, olives, lavender and wild fruits.

Here's a gastronomic, sporting and cultural glance at the route for Stage 14:

BAGUETTE AND BUTTER: The 188-kilometer (117-mile) route begins in Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux - a town named after three castles but without a castle to show for - to the city of Mende.

PLAT DU JOUR: Aligot, a dish of cheese blended with mashed potatoes that resembles fondue, is a specialty of Mende.

HISTORY: The Chauvet Cave is a trove of ancient art containing some of the oldest known cave paintings. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it contains hundreds of paintings of animals, including horses, cave lions, bears and rhinos.

The cave has been sealed off from the public for the artworks' and engravings' protection, but visitors can see a replica, the Caverne du Pont-d'Arc, which was constructed to display them as the originals were found in 1994.

VIN DU JOUR: Grignan-les-Adhemar. Disturbed by the effect that the nearby Tricastin nuclear power station was having on sales, the wine producers of the old Coteaux-du-Tricastin appellation applied successfully to change its name to Grignan-les-Adhemar. The change also encompassed new quality measures, reducing production, and the promotion of organic production.

CULTURE: Built singlehandedly over 33 years by postman Ferdinand Cheval, Le Palais Ideal (Ideal Palace) in Hauterives was declared a historical monument in 1969 as the only example of "naive architecture." A curious collection of flying buttresses, pillars and columns with no architectural rules, Cheval built it with stones that he found on his postal rounds, finally completing the project in 1912.

STAT OF THE DAY: 11. Peter Sagan posted his 11th career Tour victory on Stage 13, becoming the 25th rider to reach 11 wins.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Tomorrow we can see some good battles between the favorites." — Four-time Tour champion Chris Froome looking ahead to Saturday's stage.

DESSERT: Croquants de Mende, crunchy almond and hazelnut pastry fingers. The nuts come from the almond trees of Gorges du Tarn canyon and the hazelnuts are picked in local valleys.

FROMAGE: Pelardon des Cevennes is a goat's milk cheese from the mountainous region to the southeast of Mende. Made from unpasteurized milk, it's extremely creamy and soft with a fruity and nutty taste.

NEXT ORDER: Stage 15 on Sunday is another hilly one, following a 181.5-kilometer route from Millau to Carcassonne near the Mediterranean coast.


Associated Press writers Joseph Wilson and Andrew Dampf contributed.


More Tour de France coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/TourdeFrance

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